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Kniffin pushing forward

Men's Volleyball

UCI men's volleyball coach believes he can pick up where predecessor Speraw left off.

August 03, 2012|By Barry Faulkner
(Daily Pilot File…)

David Kniffin doesn't acknowledge any of the fuss made over his landing one of, if not the plum coaching assignments in collegiate men's volleyball last month. But the latest UC Irvine coach has noticed a corresponding lack of clutter.

"I mean it's a lot cleaner than when [former coach John] Speraw was here," Kniffin said of the office that housed Speraw, his predecessor and mentor the last 10 seasons before Speraw succeeded the legendary Al Scates at UCLA. "And there are a lot less sticky notes."

Outsiders might foresee expectations making things sticky for Kniffin in his first season at the helm of his alma mater, where he first played for, then spent five seasons as an assistant under Speraw before leaving last summer to become a women's assistant at Illinois.

But the 2010 American Volleyball Coaches Assn. National Assistant Coach of the Year believes his familiarity with all things Irvine will help defer any disappointment over losing the man many consider to be the best coach in the sport. All Speraw did at UCI was win three national titles in the last six seasons and turn a once-mediocre program into a perennial power.

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"What we do from here forward is unrelated to what John has done," said Kniffin, 31, who settled in just this week at UCI, after fulfilling his commitment to work summer camps at Illinois. "I think we're going to be in the mix to win national championships for years to come. Having a coach move on from a program is no different than having an All-American move on from a program. We all run our course in our time and this is the next step for us."

On the court, a collection of noteworthy returners led by All-American outside hitter Kevin Tillie should help make the Anteaters a viable NCAA title contender in 2013.

"We have strong talent in the gym," said Kniffin, who also welcomes back All-Mountain Pacific Sports Federation outside hitter Jeremy Dejno, starting setters Chris Austin and Daniel Stork, 6-foot-9 middle blocker Scott Kevorken, libero Michael Brinkley, outside hitter and postseason spark Connor Hughes, as well as talented opposite-in-waiting Zack La Cavera.

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